Why BT’s Net Good scheme could answer calls to tackle climate change

BT's Net Good scheme, which aims to help customers cut three tonnes of carbon for every tonne BT achieves, is a good example of how telecoms firms are driving efficiencies.Conor McGlone finds out how the industry is adapting to cope with the full force of climate change.

In an exclusive interview with edie, during a high profile launch of the Net Good scheme, the programme’s director, Kevin Moss claimed the magnitude of the scheme provided evidence that the company was intentionally trying to expand out of its comfort zone.

This seems consistent with the company’s ambition that, even though its end-to-end carbon impact is roughly equal to the emissions its products help customers avoid, it wants its overall impact on the world to be positive, hence the name: Net Good.

“[The Net Good scheme] isn’t just what we would have done anyway. I have got to work with our lines of business to triple the size of the portfolio that helps our customers reduce their emissions,” he said.

Moss explained that crucial to the success of the programme was customer buy-in and insisted that BT was perfectly placed to show customers that cutting carbon made business sense.

“If a sustainability programme is not linked to business success, you have to justify it every year as if it is philanthropy and then, if you are short of money, it falls apart. However, if you can build a programme that is both good for the environment and good for business you have got a sustainable sustainability programme,” added Moss.

Sustainability officers at telecoms firms are quick to point out that inherent in the very nature of the sector is its role to provide communication tools, which can help cut business travel and the heavy emissions associated with it.

Testament to this is the carbon reporting ranking, released earlier this year by the Environmental Investment Organisation, in which nine out of the top ten companies were telecoms firms, with BT topping the UK rankings.

Moss said: “I am in a business that by its very nature has the ability to help the environment, so as a company we are in a good place to thrive in a resource constrained environment and I am trying to stretch that side of our business because that is the way the world is going.”

Moss also explained that the methodology behind the scheme is open to the public and has laid out a challenge for other companies to help refine it.

“The terminology we are using is open sourcing. We want to share it because we want other people to be able to adopt and improve it or perhaps come up with something better.”

Climate change is having a significant impact on the telecoms industry and the launch of BT’s Net Good scheme is an indicator of the importance the company feels it must put on arriving at impeccable methodology.

According to the company’s chief sustainability officer Niall Dunne, extreme snow and rain related to climate change, which can physically bring down networks, remains the final bastion of customer dissatisfaction.

“All the faults of the networks that we are seeing across the UK are down to weather-related issues, so it is no longer a case of the right processes and being a ‘customercentric’ organisation; it is climate change literally washing through our network,” he said.

However, the real challenge for larger companies, such as BT, is engaging with supply chains and reporting on Scope 3 emissions.

BT is one of the top energy users in the UK, accounting for around 0.7% of all electricity consumed in the country and Moss said that in the ICT sector there are a lot more steps in the supply chain even compared with industries such as food or clothing.

This is why the company has decided to use an environmentally extended economic input-output (EEIO) model, rather than a per-product approach, which looks at each individual product and chases it back through the supply chain.

“Looking back through our supply chain even if we go two or three levels, we don’t cover 50% of it, so while the per product approach can be good for looking at an individual product, if we want to look at our entire supply chain and really have captured the bulk of it we have to use a macro level approach.”

“An EEIO looks at our proportion of spend on each sector and we take the equivalent carbon spend for that sector, so it is an all-encompassing method. If everyone does that you cover the entire carbon footprint of everything,” said Moss.

Conor McGlone, edie reporter

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